Opponents of Scotland’s proposed law to allow adults who are terminally ill to end their life are arguing that it could open the door to euthanizing people for other criteria, such as mental health conditions.
On Thursday, Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish Parliament, lodged the final proposal for Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland).
Organisations opposed to assisted dying legislation argue that it could “normalise” suicide.
‘Serious Questions Need to Be Asked’
The MSP’s assisted suicide Bill proposes that anyone aged 16 or over who is deemed terminally ill and has been resident in Scotland for 12 months can get help to end their lives.
“When you start factoring in, which really hasn’t been considered in any of this consultation, is the very significant body of evidence that is emerging, showing a link between legalising assisted suicide and/or euthanasia and normalising suicide in the general population. Serious questions need to be asked about that,” Alistair Thompson, spokesman for Care Not Killing Alliance, told The Epoch Times.
The Care Not Killing Alliance promotes more and better palliative care and wants to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed.
McArthur told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday that he was hopeful that his members’ bill would receive cross-party support and lead to a change in the law next year. A Members’ Bill is legislation that is introduced by an MSP who is not a Scottish government minister.
Though on the same programme, disability campaigner Dr. Jim Elder-Woodward said that no disabled people’s organisations supported assisted dying and that he feared for the future of disabled people if the law was introduced.
“The assisted dying bill … might open a real disaster for disabled people in the future,” Elder-Woodward said. “Nobody can guarantee the safeguards of the present bill [will] be retained in the future. Not one disabled people’s organisation is in favour of assisted dying.”
The English Assisted Dying Bill is moving through the UK parliament, though euthanasia is illegal in England and Wales and could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.
At present, this also risks charges for a number of possible offences in Scottish criminal law. Because of this, at least 20 Scottish citizens have traveled and died at Swiss facilities such as Dignitas, according to a report by McArthur (pdf).
Results of Public Consultation Disputed
At Holyrood on Thursday, McArthur said he had “been particularly struck by many harrowing accounts from those who witnessed their loved ones endure a bad death.
“They sent a powerful message that, even with excellent palliative care, the option of an assisted death would have made such a difference in terms of reducing unnecessary suffering.
“A safe and compassionate assisted dying law is a law that’s time has come,” he added.
The consultation received the highest number of responses from the public for a proposed Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament. McArthur produced a summary report (pdf) noting that at 14,038 responses were received. The report said that 10,687 or 76 percent were fully supportive of the proposal.
Right to Life—a pro-life organisation that opposes assisted suicide—disputes the rate of those fully supportive of the bill. They have called upon the Scottish government to “urgently undertake an independent review.”
Right to Life received an email from McArthur’s office on Jan. 18, 2022, that said, “I can confirm that we have received 3,532 submissions from email@example.com.” Right to Life provided the email to The Epoch Times.
The report noted that 3,352 responses had been received from Right to Life but they “are not counted in the data presented in the summary.” The reason given is that they were received from the same email on the same day.
The Epoch Times asked McArthur for comment, and sought clarification on the discrepancy in the number of Right to Life responses in the report (3,352) and in the email to Right to Life (3,532) but has not had a response by the time of publishing.
Extension in Other Countries
Thompson said Scotland was inspired by the U.S. state of Oregon, which has had an assisted dying law in place for over 20 years. But he noted that a peer-reviewed medical journal in 2015 found that legalising physician-assisted suicide (PAS) was associated with a 6.3 percent increase in total suicides (including assisted suicides).
He argued that any change in the law to allow assisted suicide or euthanasia would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden upon others, affecting people who are disabled, elderly, sick or even depressed.
“So the first country to start euthanizing people for mental health conditions was the Netherlands and then Belgium followed suit very quickly. Conditions included anorexia, and also a sort of combination of pathologies linked to sexual abuse, which was probably the most chilling,” he said.
“Subsequently, Canada has gone down this route as well,” he said.
Canada’s broadening medical assistance in dying (MAiD), a procedure first made legal by the federal Liberal government in 2016, has been called “the most permissive euthanasia and assisted-suicide legislation in the world.”
But he added that there’s been an incremental extension in Canada, which has extended to people who are not suffering from mental illness.
In its 2021 report the Canadian government cited that out of 9,950 MAiD deaths, 17.3 percent cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason. That represents a 250 percent increase from the 2,838 MAiD deaths in 2017 the first full year assisted suicide was legal in Canada.
“These bills look very, very innocuous. People start looking and saying, well, it doesn’t seem that bad,” he said. “I hope MSPs will see sense when they start looking at the details,” said Thompson.
A previous attempt to legalize assisted suicide in Scotland was defeated in the Scottish Parliament in 2015.
PA media contributed to this report.